I suppose it's a mark of achievement for Marie Claire's online component that I feel moved to comment again on something it published, considering it's not a site I visit.
Back a while, there was the firestorm that ensued after an MC writer confided her revulsion when she saw fat people. It brought thousands of horrified retorts within days, and I was asked to comment by a Boston-area health website.
This time, however, nobody has to ask me. I'm reacting to "How To Stop Binge Eating," by Arianne Cohen, in which she makes many good observations but draws "wrong" conclusions, though of course, I concede entirely that addiction — to food or anything else — has to be a self-diagnosis.
She has some of the symptoms, or, I shoud say, I can relate to several of the behaviors she writes about. Here's how she starts out:
If you and I dine together and there is a bread basket sitting between us, I cannot focus on what you're saying. I'll try, but really I'm focused on not consuming the entire basket. After we say our good-byes, I'll go home and get ready for bed — or perhaps I'll salve my work stress with a stop at the bakery or celebrate with chocolate-mint ice cream or be thoroughly haunted by a bag of Sprees in a closet two rooms away.
That sounds like some pretty disordered eating to me, and I speak from experience. I also relate when she says "at least four nights a month, I sit on my couch, overtaken with a bodily feeling that I must eat something." And when she says that she could relate to self-identified addicts who shared about "...meltdowns at buffets and active dodging of the date question "So what are your hobbies?" (Um, gorging? Likely while you're asleep in my bed.)"
Where we diverge is that I concluded from all that stuff that I was an addict. She concluded she didn't want to be. She describes wrestling with the concept and then the practices of Overeaters Anonymous, one of the many support groups organized around food. Better than a half dozen, including OA, use the 12 Steps developed in Alcoholics Anonymous, and many others do not.
Despite seeing evidence of improvement in the lives of others, she tells of quibbling with words choices she heard in the room, and reports that "some pyschologists and psychiatrists" don't think support groups such as OA can work. This is stunning — she saw improvement in some, and felt improvement from some of the smallish actions she took before bailing from a program that celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, which is an indication it must be helping someone.
But ultimately put credence in what "experts" had to say. She quotes one saying, "I can't imagine that people who eat...," which, of course, reveals that he doesn't know, and is reduced to imagining, which is just what I want from a caregiver. She prefers his imagination to her experience.
I can relate to that, too: I looked for any port where I might find refuge from what turned out to be the truth, no matter how shabbily justified. I'll repeat that I don't know if this writer is an addict, but some of her behaviors and actions do suggest that further investigation may be fruitful.